Ask oil lobbyists, oil executives, and former employees and board members of the American Petroleum Institute how they describe API President Jack N. Gerard, and one thing they don’t say is soft. One calls him a “hard-nosed guy.” Another says he is “a political animal” who “loves a fight.” Yet another dubs him “Voldemort.”
Ever since taking the helm at API in November 2008, the pugnacious Gerard has worked to reshape the political landscape on energy issues. From the outset, he told API staffers that the group, founded in 1919 in part to promote industry-wide standards, needed to be run more like a political campaign. He ordered up newspaper and television ads targeted at the districts of lawmakers out of step with the oil industry. “I want to hang their feet to the fire,” one former senior employee recalls him saying.
Three and a half years later, Gerard is holding President Obama’s feet to the fire. A longtime supporter of fellow Mormon and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, Gerard has repeatedly castigated Obama for his energy policies. He has also leaned on estimates — about the number of jobs the oil industry creates and the president’s power over oil prices — that many energy economists say are greatly inflated.